23 October 2012

The Fantastic Anonymous Nude

“There are those who so dislike the nude that they find something indecent in the naked truth.”  
– F. H. Bradley

Anonymous Model, © 2012 Terrell Neasley
When I first started shooting nudes several years ago, I based it on a partnership with my models. Everybody else’s interests come secondary to that notion. My job has been to do the best I can to create images that the model can appreciate and use for their portfolios or private interests. That can mean helping them advance and promote their careers or just giving them something to hang on their walls at home. Nonetheless, I do what I can to help promote the art model and their services. That’s what the Las Vegas Art Models Group was all about when I created it and ran it for three years.

Sometimes I get the privilege to work with a model  that doesn't want the recognition but would love to participate in the creative processes that I use to create artistic imagery based on the nude.  For their own private reasons they would prefer the anonymity to the promotion. Instead of recognition, they would rather go incognito.  My responsibility is to not only respect and protect that decision but to also admire it. Responsibility to admire?? Yes, I take it as a responsibility to admire.

“Being naked approaches being revolutionary; going barefoot is mere populism.”  
– John Updike

Anonymous Model, © 2012 Terrell Neasley

The Anonymous Model is becoming a bigger part of my workflow and I like it. Sometimes that’s the only deal-breaker in the decision to model or not.  Anytime I can make that decision easier, more simple, or otherwise oriented in my favor, I’m all for it. More times than not, the best shots come from the anonymous. It can even be argued that taking the identity out of the artwork is actually makes for a better piece than one where the model is identifiable. The position stems from the notion that the artwork is more important than the model. Light, shadow, form, shape, composition, balance… these are elements in artwork that mean the most. Bringing in the model’s identity might actually be a distraction within the artwork rather than lending support to it. This is not the case in every art nude, of course. If you look through the majority of my work, you’ll see that many of my models identity is reveals. Actually, let me rephrase that because a face revealed does not mean an identity revealed, especially since I never use last names and I only use the alias requested by the model.

“What spirit is so empty and blind that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?”  
- Michelangelo

Anonymous Model, © 2012 Terrell Neasley
But the Anonymous model can be photographed several ways. It could mean the face is fully revealed, but there may simply be no alias tied to the image. Or it could mean there are no facial features. I've had some models who've requested I compose out or crop out their heads entirely.  I can use hair, props, or simply strategic angles to hide faces if necessary. The rest may require creative Photoshop or post op techniques to hide a face. It doesn't matter how it’s done, or the reasons why a model may require anonymity. I just love doing it.

05 October 2012

A Comment About Validation

Art Model and Competitive Fitness Athlete, Dominique Furuta © 2011 Terrell Neasley
"A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn`t work hard for validation."
- Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg in his acceptance speech in 2005

One of the popular blogs I follow is Photofocus by master photog, Scott Borne. The guy consistently puts out the best in credible commentary for photographers. His writing is superb and he's got a strong history of talent and experience to back it up. He did a post about a week or so ago, "Photographers – Validation is Overrated", but I'm just now getting to write about it. It was going to be my THIRD point in my last blog post, but I didn't think it should be crowded with other material. This one is a stand-alone.

Art Model and Competitive Fitness Athlete,
Dominique Furuta © 2011 Terrell Neasley
At any rate, this is a conclusion I reached a long time ago. I haven't made all the best decisions in my life. As a young man, I had more than my share of screw-ups, mistakes, and otherwise bone-head decisions. However, I did learn early on that VALIDATION was something that wasn't going to be a priority on my timetable. Now I predicate that point with this caveat: I acknowledge there will always be some form of validation that we seek. It may be approval from a parent, coach, or mentor. My point, however has to do with the misguided reasons people have for needing validation as a form of acceptance or permission to move forward. As a young fresh-out-the-can soldier, I already had my 3 main goals I wanted to achieve before I entered the military. In fact, I can back up to age 7 when I first told my grandma I was gonna be a soldier. Nobody believed me when I said I would join the Army. We didn't have a lot of military in my family but I didn't wait on anybody's approval to do it. I made rank fast and didn't give a damn about seniority, except for where Army regulations mandated it. I was a leader of men at a young age with older soldiers subordinate to me.

“What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.” 
― Confucius

"Practice, research, go to workshops, take classes, believe in yourself. Improve by study, trial and error and go out there shooting."... reads one segment of Scott Borne's blog post. This was the way I operated my military career and its the same with my photography. This has been a recent point of interest for me concerning contests. I won twice in the last year with two international contests (B&W Spider Awards and Photography Masters Cup), each being recognized for 3 or 4 of my images. In both contests, I took a 2nd place category finish. It felt good to be acknowledged. Getting  Honorable Mention for one of my Nudes was by far even better than either of my 2nd Place finishes. I received invitations to participate in each of them again, but I declined them this time.

Art Model and Competitive Fitness Athlete,
Dominique Furuta © 2011 Terrell Neasley

Art Model and Competitive Fitness Athlete,
Dominique Furuta © 2011 Terrell Neasley
Why did I decline to submit more work? I couldn't find a good reason to enter again. I didn't feel a need to try to get a First Place award. I didn't think I needed any further validation of my work. I entered the first time as a change of pace and I had friends doing it. I think I'd rather concentrate my efforts on exhibits instead of contests. Some contests do lead to exhibits, I know. And maybe exhibits are another form of validation for some people. The difference is that I'm not looking for any curator, art director, or notable jury to tell me my work is good. I already feel like its good, else I'd have no desire to show it. I can always get better and improve, but its not always about that. For me, its change. Sometimes I just want to do something different and then show that. And then do something else different and show that. Trust me, some people don't like the new stuff at times, but I don't stop. If I like it and my model likes it, then I count that as a success.

Don't wait on other people to approve of you before you move forward. I've had to take those initial steps without the validation of peers and the public before. You get over it real quick. Stay true to yourself and if its what you love, then damn all the rest. Get crackin' even if it hurts a little in the beginning. Don't be afraid to walk alone when you know you have to.

"If you want to go make photographs…go do it. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you it’s okay! You don’t need anyone else’s permission or validation. No anonymous jerk on a camera club forum can stop you. You just need to believe in your heart that you have something to share. So what are you waiting for? As always, I’m rooting for you!" 
- Scott Borne, paraphrasing Seth Godin